Happy Consequence Of Climate Change: Bigger Sweet Potatoes

Rising levels of carbon dioxide could lead to bigger sweet potatoes, new research indicates. It could also increase yields of other important crops, like rice and wheat, previous findings showed.

New Scientist has the story:
Hope Jahren at the University of Hawaii at Manao and colleagues grew the plants at four CO2 concentrations: the current level of 390 parts per million, as well as 760, 1140 and 1520 ppm. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that atmospheric CO2 levels will be between 500 and 1000 ppm by the year 2100.

For the least extreme scenario at 760 ppm, the team found the tubers grew up to 96 per cent larger.
Great news!

Except the researchers don't know if these tubers are any more or less nutritious than their average sized counterparts. If they aren't as nutritious, the larger size may not be all that helpful to the hungry masses. Studies of other crops indicated that protein levels in other crops grown at higher carbon dioxide concentrations was lower.

The researchers also didn't consider how climate change may impact the rainfall in regions that grow sweet potatoes. Climate changes — like the drought that's plaguing most of the US — could result in decreased crop yields.

Jahren will present the findings at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco in December.